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Fascinating Fayetteville

Homemade wishes for Valentine’s Day


Erika Gee Harris admits that a stray star or a sparkly sequin may have littered someone’s floor after having been left accidentally behind here and there. But like Tinkerbell’s pixie dust, those little shiny bits are the makings of the magic.

“Anytime I go places,” she said, “Everything I see – fabric scraps, thread, cording, beads – I think ‘How can I put this on a card?’”

Harris takes things that others may regard as remnants and turns them into handmade greeting cards. The result is her line of Gracefull Greetings and Gifts, handmade cards for every occasion. Each is a unique creation, nothing less than a work of art on sturdy folded cardstock. One might be trimmed in lace; another might have a line of fine gold thread sewn through. Others include beads, ribbons, feathers, mica powders and sprays or gel paints.

“The way her cards integrate the use of specialty papers, fabrics, shimmering threads and what I call notions is masterful,” said Harris’ cousin and fellow artist Beth Pryor. “I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of her greeting cards, some of which I’ve actually framed. As an artist myself, I admire what she does and can truly see what goes in the making of each piece.”

Most of Harris’ cards are left blank inside, allowing the sender to pen a sentiment more original and heartfelt than those printed on store-bought, mass-produced cards. In fact, Harris was inspired, in part, by learning the history of how Valentine’s Day cards became popular in the Victorian era, when sweethearts would painstakingly craft words of love for each other.

“The reason I started making cards was so that we could get back to handwritten notes,” she said. “We are in an age of immediate gratification and electronics. We’ve got to get back to personalization. I think it means something when you get something other than a store-bought card.”

Harris, who is 53, earned a degree in architectural engineering from North Carolina A&T. While in school, she took a part-time job that required her to wear skirts. She had never learned to sew.

“But I thought, ‘How hard could it be?’’’ she said.

She bought a book, borrowed her mother’s sewing machine and taught herself. When she and her husband, Chris, were married in 1992, she sewed her own wedding gown. She eventually started a sewing and event-planning business when the couple moved to Fayetteville, her husband’s hometown.

“Her innate creativity and design sense also manifest themselves in beautifully appointed tablescapes for the many banquet and reception events she’s planned and managed,” Pryor said.

Harris has been creating cards for years now, so much so that she has filled four crates and 10 storage boxes. Then there are the boxes of neatly organized tools and materials, from soft sponge brushes to tiny boxes of ink pads. Each time she comes up with a design, she carefully places the necessary materials into sheet protectors lined with a sheet of cardstock. A spare bedroom in her home is full to the brim with spools of thread, blocks of rubber stamps, scissors, rulers, stencils and narrow shelves filled with stacks of colorful paper.

“This goes back a long time,” she said. “A new technique will come out, and I’ll get really excited.”

A woman of many talents, some of her favorite designs pay homage to her love of tennis. She even did a stint as women’s tennis coach at Fayetteville State University until the program was put on hold. Among the other designs dear to her heart are those she’s made for her husband and for daughter Sydney, who is student body president at Fayetteville State.

And then there are those cards her mother keeps on display. The name Gracefull Greetings comes from the fact that Grace is part of her mother’s name.
Harris has been creating cards for so long that she now gets into a rhythm that helps make the process a bit faster, enabling her to offer individual cards, as well as sets of six or 12. Her dream is to one day open a shop that would allow her to display not only her own creations but those of other artisans as well.
“Something with a lot of windows in an old building, perhaps,” she said. “I see it as more of a boutique. It’s all about creativity and homemade love. Something you won’t find anywhere else.”

For more information or to order, write to info@erikageeharris.com or go to gracefullgreetings.com.